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Date Posted — August 27, 2001
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MADISON, Ill., Sunday, Aug. 26, 2001 - Al Unser Jr. drove the last 67 laps without a pit stop, and that strong fuel mileage and savvy driving in traffic delivered him a victory in the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 26 at Gateway International Raceway. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser made his final stop on Lap 133 of the 200-lap race and went the distance in the No. 3 Galles Racing Starz SuperPak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. It was his second career Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory. His first came in April 2000 at Las Vegas. "This team never gives up," Unser said. "And that's what it's all about. You've got to keep trying and never give up. You can always make tomorrow a better day than what today was. It was a super race." Unser, who started eighth, averaged 136.379 mph and earned $134,200 for the victory. It was the first Indy Racing victory for a G Force chassis since Juan Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Mark Dismore finished a season-best second in the No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1.1834 seconds behind Unser. Northern Light Cup points leader Sam Hornish Jr. made a big leap toward capturing his first series championship by finishing third in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. His lead over Buddy Lazier grew from 25 to 45 points after Lazier finished 13th due to a variety of mechanical problems. Hornish only needs to finish fifth or better in the final two races of the season to clinch the Northern Light Cup. He has recorded nine top-five finishes in 11 starts this season. Unser was running second, more than 10 seconds behind Hornish, when the final caution period of the race was triggered by Donnie Beechler's crash in Turn 2 on Lap 188. Beechler was unhurt. Hornish ducked into the pits for a four-second stop for fuel only, exiting the pits in third while giving Unser the lead for good and putting Dismore in second. Hornish's previous stop had come on Lap 133 with Unser and the other lead cars. "I thought we were going all the way to the end without another yellow, so maybe I should have run a little richer to keep up with Sam," Unser said. "And then on that yellow, Sam Hornish pulled in the pits. (Team owner) Rick (Galles) made the right decision, and that's why he's the strategist, and I'm the driver." Said Hornish: "We didn't have enough fuel to make it all the way. We were running hard trying to get out front, and hoping that everyone had to make a pit stop there toward the end. You know, the late race crash and yellow kind of hurt us, but the Firestone tires really worked good for us all day today. The car was stuck real good. We were fast." Lazier's chase for a second consecutive championship took a hit on the first lap when his No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone slowed. He made many pit stops as the team struggled with fuel-pressure problems. Lazier finished 10 laps down. "No fuel pressure," Lazier said. "No fuel pressure at all. All day long, the fuel alarm was going off in the car, probably a couple of hundred times the fuel alarm went off. It's miserable. You know, when you got three races to go in a championship battle, it's really miserable. "My guys worked their (butt) off. I don't blame them. They worked really hard. They worked day and night, so I certainly don't blame my guys. When you have no fuel pressure from the start of the race, even the pace lap - I mean, I went to start and I couldn't stay up on the first lap."


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Article posted by staff on August 27, 2001.